DESTIN, Fla. - On the final day of SEC meetings, commissioner Mike Slive tried to blast a message to the rest of the NCAA.
It has been a foregone conclusion that the power five conferences, including the SEC, would get autonomy from the rest of the NCAA this August, and thus have the votes to make reforms, starting with a stipend for student-athletes.
But Slive used his wrap-up press conference to say that if the SEC doesn't get its preferred voting threshold for that Power 5, then a starker breakaway would occur.
"If it doesn't pass, the next move be to go to a Division 4," Slive said.
The issue is this: The NCAA board has been expected to approve autonomy for the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12. But a sticking point is whether the NCAA will approve a voting threshold that Slive says is necessary to make tangible changes.
Slive wants the threshold to be a vote of 60 percent of the 65 schools in the Power 5, as well as three of the five conferences. As it stands now, the NCAA steering committee plans to vote on whether it should be two-thirds of the schools and four of the five conferences.
"I'm optimistic we're not going to go to the Division 4," Slive said. "If in August the board does not approve (this), you should call me up."
Florida president Bernie Machen was less optimistic. In fact he called himself "somewhat pessimistic."
Why is this important? Machen pointed to the lawsuits facing the NCAA, most notably the Ed O'Bannon case, which push for student-athlete rights. Machen said that if the Power 5 conferences don't get enough voting power to make changes, the lawsuits have a better chance of succeeding.
"The whole intercollegiate model is at risk if we don't do something," Machen said.